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It’s okay to be a “corporate sell-out”

From someone that’s doing it right now

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It’s Michaelmas again, and that can only mean one thing. Corporate firms flood into Cambridge to try and entice the student population with dreams of high-paying jobs and metropolitan lifestyles. But as much as they are desperately trying to attract us, the charge is aimed at those students who are interested, in that we’re “selling ourselves” to them.

And now that the race for Spring weeks, insight days, internships and graduate jobs are underway, so is the niggling judgement that students become helplessly seduced by soulless, corporate charms.

I suppose from my own experience, there is an underlying embarrassment at being interested in these careers. Going to the careers fairs and networking events is something I would prefer to do alone, and if there are people there that I do recognise, it’s done with a cursory smile. I would rather keep my corporate aspirations low-key, from some, frankly nonsensical, innate shame that people will either judge me for being a sell-out, or whether I am actually competent enough to get one of those jobs.

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Dressed to impress

Let’s be honest, there is something about the money aspect of this, that taints it all. That fact that corporate jobs offer much higher salaries than most graduate careers means that there is a stigma that those who want those jobs are just in it for me money. The reputation of the corporate world doesn’t help either, as these vast, faceless, emotionless money machines, where the pursuit of money is at all costs. So naturally, people who want to work there are materialistic, willing to subsume morals to the attainment of wealth.

Another charge, probably more reasonably levied, is that those who want corporate careers lack imagination. And there is some basis for that, finance, consultancy and law really do seem to be the default choice for most Cantabs. It should hardly be surprising though, if we are at Cambridge, that we might be drawn towards ambitious and prestigious institutions. Still, it’s presented that the corporate world offers boring jobs for boring people.

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Could get used to a view like this

What I want to ask is, is there something inherently wrong with wanting a well paid job? I’m sure all Cambridge students have done the maths and know that they’re leaving with at least £27,000 of debt. Wanting to pay it off, and having a job that that offers financial security and independence is not a bad thing. The notion that money is the only thing that matters, is the damning misconception that we have to bear.

The issue may not be that corporate jobs are so well paid, but that jobs in other careers are under funded, with most internships or work experience in the arts sector being unpaid. This creates the illusion that corporate jobs are more worthwhile, and maybe gives an air of superiority to those who do get them.

Choosing to go down the corporate route is unimaginative, yet just because it is the easy choice to make does not make it easy to achieve. Competition is notoriously fierce, and the odds of being successful is probable slimmer than getting a Cambridge offer. Hence the stereotype of the desperate, sell-out sycophants manically donning a suit to go to every networking event. Please don’t judge us, in fact you ought to have pity, for we’ve faced countless rejections and crushed hopes.

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Working out how to sell my soul

All other things aside, it is undeniably a shrewd move. Getting an internship or graduate job at a firm gives you respected experience, high quality training as well as opening many doors. Sure it may be tough, with long hours and work that some consider tedious (well which job isn’t, really?), yet it is arguably worth it, in the long run. Plus, just because you follow the corporate path to begin with, does not mean you are selling yourself out to that world. It’s not unconditionally binding, I know that if I find I actually don’t enjoy the work, I have the freedom to walk away, and pursue something else.

So this is a plea to all those who regard corporate jobs with disdain. Of course the choice of career is entirely personal, and thus the corporate world is not obviously to everyone’s taste. But for those of us who do want to pursue it, please don’t think we’re all blinded by money, power and prestige.